Dengue has been considered to be one of the fastest rising infectious diseases globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 50 to 100 million cases of dengue worldwide are being listed every year, and from this big number, an estimated 20,000 fatalities occur annually around the world.
The Asia Pacific region bears the 75 percent of the global burden, which indicates a significant socio-economic burden that should be addressed in a collaborative and proactive way.
With the increasing number of dengue cases, there are many ongoing efforts in combating the disease, however, dengue prevention and control are facing many challenges. The increase in cases and geographical expansion of affected countries can be attributed toseveral factors – change in climate, early onset of rainfall, growing population densities, and greater international and local travel.
According to Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional director for the Western Pacific, dengue has a significant impact on health, the economy and the entire society, making it a shared responsibility of everyone. Individuals, communities, private sector and government agencies need to work together to help alleviate the cases of dengue disease.
To address the issue, the Ministries of Health of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has organised an advocacy in targeting regions to make a collaborative affort in addressing the problems with dengue. In line with this, the group has designated June 15 as Asean Dengue Day, which was spearheaded in 2010.
The Asean Dengue Day is an annual event, which is aimed at spreadingits campaign on dengue awareness and prevention among its 10 Asean member states, andaddressing dengue at a regional level involving various proactive and collective responses and forces. The Asean member states are comprised of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and VietNam.
The first Asean Dengue Day event was commemorated throughout Asia on June 15, 2011, with an official launch in Jakarta, Indonesia. Myanmar hosted the second Asean Dengue Day, while the third regional commemorative programme was held in Hanoi, Vietnam.
This year, the Philippines will host the fourth Asean Dengue Day conference, which will be celebrated in a two-day event in Clark, Pampanga, with the support of the Department of Health and Sanofi Pasteur.
In strong partnership with the WHO, Asean developed four key messages that aim to tap policy-makers, influencers, and other stakeholders concerned with dengue prevention and control to respond to the rising cases of the disease. These key messages are aimed at: Calling for action from all, shifting from reactive to proactive approaches, strengthening capacity in an efficient and sustainable way, and united fight against dengue.
The Asean have made collaborations and partnerships that served as key pillars in the call for action for dengue prevention initiatives across the region. From community-based social mobilisation activities, developing innovative tools and strategies for vector management, up to disease surveillance and outbreak response, member states have mobilised their key stakeholders and facilitated on-the-ground action.
Since dengue has been a serious public health concern, Asean has pushed through sustainable and integrated approaches to respond to the issue. These include allotting resources and budget to health education, surveillance strengthening, vector control, and have engaged to long-term prevention and preparedness-driven strategies.
Strengthening the action for Dengue mitigation
Since dengue has no specific boundaries, regional cooperation is the most efficient armor against it. The Asean Dengue Day serves as a concrete expression of how member states are working together to prevent and control the disease. Collaborations to combat dengue have reached into regional level, which created a significant partnerships at the national level that helped in enhancing dengue prevention, and has developed activities to control its spread.
To respond to the needs of its region, member states have united in doing a long-term prevention and preparedness-driven strategies.
With the joint forces of Singapore and Malaysia, the Environmental Health Institute of Singapore and the Ministry of Health of Malaysia have been working together in developing a web portal, UNITEDengue (United In Tackling Epidemic Dengue)that will enable public health institutions in the Asia Pacific to share cases and virus surveillance information. This will give an efficient understanding of the molecular epidemiology of dengue in the region.
In 2012, Indonesia conducted a second round of the dengue vaccine, which is produced by Sanofi Pasteur, trial among schoolchildren in Jakarta, Bandung and Denpasar, and it has been reported that the trial has no adverse effects. This trial has been running simultaneously in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
To support the goal of the Asean in recognising dengue as a priority disease in Asia Pacific, Myanmar has made its part in encouraging the local government units, NGOs and communities to unite in fighting dengue at all levels through the guidance of the Ministry of Health.
Dengue prevention and control activities have also been led by Region and State Health Departments and Vector-Borne Disease Control (VBDC), which include conventional anti-larvae measures, mass larvae-killing and dengue case surveillance. In partnership with the national non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community leaders and responsible administrative officials, local NGOs and health staff conduct weekly larval surveys and control activities to help alleviate the cases of dengue.
With the funding from its Armed forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Thailand has provided training on data management, geographic information systems and modelling to staff of the Philippines’ National Epidemiology Centre.
Dengue prevention and control is shared among community leaders and schoolchildren in Brunei Darussalam, which promotes community participation in fighting vector breeding to limit dengue transmission.
Because of the uniting forces of the Asean member states, fighting dengue disease will give a significant and positive outcome. The success of dengue prevention and control activities depend heavily on the coordinated efforts of the member states, not just the efforts of individual country programmes. Combating a common disease will be easier when fighting as one community.
With the continuing support of the Asean and WHO, the Asia Pacific region will continue its battle against dengue disease, and this will be more powerful if the whole community will do its responsibility in helping alleviate the cases of dengue disease.